Immune Health

Principal Investigator: Dr Oli Gasser, Malaghan Institute of Medical Research

Industry partners: Plant & Food Research, Medical Research Institute of New Zealand, AgResearch

Public Summary

In Tranche 1, the High-Value Nutrition Immune Health Priority Research Programme (PRP) focused on gaining a wider understanding of the influence of diet on lung health, mediated either directly by food bioactives or indirectly via changes to the gut microbiota. 

Air pollution and associated threats to general health and productivity, including severe influenza disease and increased risks of metabolic and cardiovascular disease, are of significant importance to Chinese consumers. 

The Immune Health programme successfully established the role of New Zealand food and beverage (F&B) constituents in diminishing influenza-driven lung disease, either by direct antiviral activity of food-derived bioactives or by enhancing the immunological responsiveness to the influenza-vaccine. 

The active participation of gut microbes in the response to influenza vaccination has been confirmed in the context of a clinical study, where >120 healthy vaccines were followed and assessed over the course of six months after administration of the seasonal influenza vaccine. 

One of the mechanisms underlying this important microbe-vaccine interaction, which could be relevant for other vaccines, including against COVID-19, has been investigated and the results are currently being prepared for peer-reviewed publication. 

The programme further established the beneficial effect of different foods and food-derived bioactives to combat air pollution-driven inflammation, which highlights the opportunity of the New Zealand F&B industry to engage in this emerging and substantial market.

The Immune Health PRP has been significantly impacted by the ongoing global pandemic (COVID-19) and has revised its objectives. 

The task of the Immune Health PRP in Tranche 2 is to establish an immunological analysis platform which can be used by industry and will significantly enhance the science excellence and industry value of other HVN health themes. 

There are three key objectives for the Immune Health PRP throughout the rest of Tranche 2:

  • To demonstrate the ability of dietary phenolic compounds to influence immunity in a receptor and cell type-specific manner and establish an associated screening and phenotyping platform.  This objective links cutting-edge immunology to one of the largest classes of plant-derived bioactives, and is of significant importance to New Zealand F&B companies.
  • To demonstrate the ability of dietary intervention to influence immunity through immunometabolic pathways and establish an associated phenotyping platform.  This objective aims to develop a novel and versatile aspect of nutritional immunology which can be applied to virtually any dietary intervention.
  • To apply the established screening and phenotyping platforms to relevant foods and/or biological samples from HVN-wide dietary interventions with the goal to provide a framework of understanding which may guide future clinical studies.

    Research Team

    Dr Olivier Gasser